Joe Louis Ice Rink

Around the Arena: Ice Rink Design

While watching the Toronto Maple Leafs vs. the Colorado avalanche game the other day, I began to think about many interesting aspects of the design of the modern day ice rink that were affecting the game. Much of this stemmed from the crazy happenings of overtime. As long as I can remember, I have never seen that much 3 vs. 3 playing time in a single game. It was exciting to say the least and even Matt Duchene said as such during his post-game interview. I would have to agree with his comments about the potential to end games before going to the shootout with 3 vs. 3 playing time instead of the current 4 vs. 4 and hopefully the league looks more closely at the excitement that was the 3 vs. 3 overtime of this game. Looking beyond the fact that overtime in this game was exciting because of 3 vs. 3 playing time, the modern day ice rink design has made overtime and the game in general more exciting. Or more correctly, overtime and the entirety of the game has taken advantage of some current  ice rink design and changed other aspects to make the game more exciting. This can be attributed to ice rink size, bench location, less deep nets, farther apart faceoff hashmarks, and a wider trapezoid of play for the goalies.

Rink Size:

Difference in Ice Rink Size Between IIHF and NHL. Photo by:
Difference in Ice Rink Size Between IIHF and NHL. Photo by:

The smaller size ice rink surface used by the NHL compared to the international size favors faster and more aggressive play. This only gets accentuated during overtime or other 4 vs. 4 and 3 vs, 3 situations as players have wide open ice but the smaller ice surface keeps the game extremely aggressive.

Bench Location:

Perhaps one of the aspects of ice rink design that affects play the most is bench location, largely through the “long-change” that happens during the 2nd and overtime periods. It is unknown if the intention of locating the benches where they have come to be was because it would offer the “long-change” and resulting in increased offensive production, or if it was just a lucky by-product for us to enjoy as fans. All that is known is that at some point it was decided to require player benches to be in their current positions. I personally believe it was just luck as almost all arenas in the existence of the NHL were setup with the player benches in the positions we are accustomed to today even though there was no regulation or rules on player bench layout during the infancy of the NHL. The only NHL ice rink to have player benches not where we are accustomed to was the original Boston Garden before any of its later renovations, and thus when the rule was instated they probably just used what was most typically the layout. The Boston Garden had its player benches directly across the ice from each other at center ice until later renovations. Whether you think it was just luck or that someone thought it would create more offense is up to debate, but I do know that having benches at opposite ends of the ice rink has really made for some exiting hockey during the second and now overtime periods.

Less Deep Nets:

Wrap-Around Goal Attempt. Photo By:
Wrap-Around Goal Attempt. Photo By:

The Wrap-Around… enough said.

Farther Apart Faceoff Hashmarks:

When this modification to the ice rink was proposed last year, I admittedly didn’t think much about it. I didn’t really care if teams stalled by purposely getting thrown out of the faceoff so I just kinda blew off this subtle change. However, I have surprisingly come to like it. The farther distance between the two faceoff players allows for more clean draws, which in turn leads to better puck possession and more goal opportunities off the offensive zone draws. I can’t complain about more offense so I have come to appreciate this change.

Widening the Trapezoid of Play for Goalies:

This is a blessing or a curse depending on who is the goalie of your favourite team. If your favourite team happens to have a great puck handling goalie then you should be well off, but for those that don’t have the luxury of a good puck handling goalie you can be rest assured that there might be some nail-biting times ahead. But I am all for more excitement and if that is due to goaltender error so be it.

Braden Holtby Puck-Handling Error. Photo by: The Washington Post via
Braden Holtby Puck-Handling Error. Photo by: The Washington Post via


Over time, the ice rink has continued to evolve to create the environment to produce one of the most exciting sports in the world. The ice rink will continue to evolve into the future. What changes do you think should be implemented into the layout of the NHL ice rink?

Cover Photo: Joe Louis Arena. Photo by:

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